Camping is do-it-yourself accommodation: you carry your roof and your bedding in your backpack or your vehicle. It's often the only choice of accommodation you have when you're travelling off the beaten track, but there are also very popular sites for camping holidays. Many car camping sites have an area for those coming with just a tent. On these, or other areas especially for campers, there are usually at least basic facilities, such as fresh water and toilets.
Wikivoyage has articles about different sorts of camping:
Commercial campgrounds and similar can often be found outside cities and at vacation destinations. Often the campground caters to car campers as well as those coming only with a tent. Often there are also cabins or caravans for rent. The campgrounds usually have showers, kiosk, playground etc. However, facilities can range from the very basic (water that has to be boiled to be potable and outhouses for toilets) to something akin to a hotel with pre-built tents and permanently installed caravans for you to rent and supermarkets or private beach access.
When hiking edit
Camping is a common option in national parks and similar. Always check whether you need a permit to camp, how much it costs and whether your choice of site will be restricted. You generally need to get permits either in advance or on arrival. Many popular national parks or protected sites have limited camping to particular sites and some have banned it altogether. When hiking, there will often be set camp sites a day's walk apart, and often you are forbidden to camp between them. The facilities may be much more basic than at normal camping areas.
Permits can typically be obtained in advance or on arrival, but may be hard to get or sell out during very popular holiday periods. At very popular holiday periods the permits may actually be quite hard to get and sometimes sell out months in advance – don't blithely plan a Christmas camping holiday without being sure you can get a permit if you need one.
Wild camping edit
In e.g. the Nordic countries the right to camp is a fundamental part of the right to access: you may put your tent more or less anywhere for a night or two, as long as your camping does not disturb or harm nature or people (out of sight, out of mind, mostly, but keep out of sensitive areas and check campfire regulations separately). If you want facilities, use paid camping grounds. In protected areas, check local rules.
On the other hand, the United States has very strict laws on private property, and you are not allowed to step onto privately-owned land without explicit permission from the owner; in some areas it is legal for the owner to shoot you to defend his/her property should you do so. You can generally camp on public land with the exception of military areas if you leave no trace of your presence, but public and private land is often not clearly delineated, so be sure to do your research before you decide on a campsite.
Wild camping may be possible in any sparsely inhabited area, but check whether it is accepted practice. Sleeping rough is sometimes practiced where wild camping in the normal sense is not possible.
Especially in Europe, third party companies and often campsites themselves rent out fully equipped tents or mobile homes ranging from the relatively basic and inexpensive to price and comfort on par with hotels or vacation rentals. Sometimes called glamping, it is camping with amenities and, in some cases, resort-style services not usually associated with traditional camping. Glamping has become particularly popular with 21st-century tourists seeking to combine the luxuries of hotel accommodation with the escapism and adventure recreation of camping. This type of camping has the upside of vastly reducing the amount of luggage you have to bring but limiting you to specific campsites. Some people think it dilutes the "true" camping experience.
Some campgrounds are popular by locals, others may attract a very international crowd. A regional lingua franca may be usable.
Unless you arrive by car, you don't want to carry excess luggage. Pack what you need on the most primitive site you are going to visit. You want somewhere to sleep, a way to prepare your food, enough clothes for bad weather, what you need for your hygiene and equipment for anything you want to do (swimming gear, sports equipment, books, a pack of cards, whatever).
If you will camp during a wilderness hike, you probably already know what to carry. Otherwise the distance from the nearest bus stop to your campground (and whether you will take a taxi) may dictate whether you need proper backpacks or can use other baggage. Also consider whether that distance will be covered along a paved road, a potholed dirt road or a stony footpath across some hills.
Get in edit
Most campgrounds have access by car, while they may be away from routes of public transport. There may not be any taxis available in the proximity and hitchhiking may not be a a viable option if most people travel to the campground as families, filling up their cars with people and luggage and there is little other traffic along the road.
Some campgrounds lie by hiking trails or canoeing routes and the road to them may be closed for normal traffic, especially if they are inside a national park or similar – although in some parks campsites cater also to people visiting by car without any intention to carry more than a daypack.
Arrive to the campground in time to be able to choose a good spot in daylight and to acquaint yourselves to the site while the reception is open.
Fees and permits edit
Campgrounds are usually the cheapest kind of paid accommodation, but prices vary. Sometimes you pay by tent, sometimes (also) by number of persons. There may be more expensive alternatives, such as cottages. You might also have to pay for showers, sauna and other amenities.
See and do edit
Bigger campgrounds usually have quite some facilities to keep you occupied, such as beaches, badminton courts and playing equipment to borrow or rent.
The draw of campgrounds is often the surrounding nature, so there may be nice trails around.
- See also: Car camping#Work
If you plan on visiting any primitive campgrounds, you may need to bring your own camping stove and fuel. Otherwise there are often communal kitchens, and barbecue sites may be available regardless.
As you probably don't have access to a refrigerator, you may need to rely on non-perishable food or frequent replenishment. Some basics are often available in a kiosk at the campground. Check the distance to the closest proper shop. There may be some nearby farm selling their produce.
Ordinary campsites usually have potable water available for you, but at some primitive sites you may have to bring your own or use a brook, the water of which should probably be boiled for a few minutes before use. The site should have instructions of how to cope.
Many campgrounds have sites for those coming by tent only as well as for those with caravan or campervan. Often there are also cottages, stationary caravans or other locally prepared accommodation.
Stay safe edit
Mind fire safety. Your tent should not be close to open fire.
Keep your valuables out of sight and avoid leaving them unguarded in unlocked places.
Stay healthy edit
- See also: Car camping#Health and hygiene
- See also: Leave-no-trace camping
Many campgrounds are in sparsely populated regions; mobile phone coverage may be less than good. You may want to download your online maps and check in with your closest family when you have the chance, before leaving the closest city.
Many campgrounds have postboxes etc.